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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jun. 9, 2010 5 years ago

Sand accumulation concerns residents

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by: Kurt Schultheis Managing Editor

Longboat Key resident Anne McKinnon is happy that the town has reached an agreement to dredge the authorized channel in Longboat Pass and to use the sand that’s accumulated in it.

But she and her husband, Don, who reside at 380 North Shore Road condominium, are worried about the growing sand spit that has worked its way under the Longboat Pass Bridge.

The sand spit, which is an extension of Beer Can Island, is narrowing the entrance to the lagoon that north-end residents use to get in and out of the pass.

“It is choking off the water circulation and navigation is next-to-impossible at low tide there now,” said McKinnon, who says the spit creates swamp-like conditions in the lagoon.

McKinnon is worried about what the future dredging of the pass will do to the sand spit, because when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last dredged the pass in 1997, she says it allowed the sand spit to grow.

“We can’t emphasize how bad this is getting and the impact on property values and the quality of this area,” said McKinnon, who hopes there’s a plan in place for the sand spit she has watched grow since 1993.

“The town should take advantage of the sand that’s available here (in the sand spit) and restore this area for the residents and the boaters,” McKinnon said.

Public Works Director Juan Florensa, however, said the town can’t touch that accumulated sand when it dredges the pass because it’s part of Beer Can Island.

“But dredging the pass, we believe, will have beneficial effects on that area of sand that’s blocking access to the pass from north-end residents,” Florensa said.

By realigning the pass and dredging the authorized channel instead of a channel that has moved closer to Longboat Key, erosion stresses on the north end will be relieved, and less sand will be leaving the beach and accreting on the sand spit under the bridge.

“If we can stabilize the north end, the sand from the North Shore Road beach- access area will stop migrating over there,” Florensa said. “The only reason that sand spit exists is because it’s sand coming from the other side of the island.”

Florensa, however, is doubtful that the sand spit will ever go away. But he says it won’t get bigger once the pass is dredged and could get smaller over time.

McKinnon, however, is doubtful that will happen.

“I wish the town could just take the sand from the spit and put it back on the beach where it belongs,” McKinnon said. “We don’t want to get choked out of the pass.”

Town Manager Bruce St. Denis reiterated the sand spit cannot be removed as part of a future dredging project.

Said St. Denis: “The seagrass habitat that’s formed on that portion of sand makes it environmentally sensitive. We would be liable for seagrass mitigation if we were to take away that sand.”

Contact Kurt Schultheis at kschultheis@yourobserver.com

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